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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights
31 May 2001
Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine

Monthly media monitoring review


May 2001


1

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:


(UN Press Release SG/SM/7786 of 1 May 2001)

The South African Department of Foreign Affairs issued a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) statement summarizing the Movement’s position on the question of Palestine, ahead of the Ministerial meeting of the NAM Committee on Palestine and the NAM Security Council Caucus in Pretoria on 3 May. Among other things, the statement evaluated the current situation in the Middle East as posing a direct threat to world peace and security and reaffirmed the NAM’s support for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to return to their homeland and to have their own independent State with Jerusalem as its capital. According to the statement, it was impossible at the moment to convince the two sides to return to the negotiations, due to the level of the violence. Efforts should thus be increased to ensure that Israel complied with existing agreements and their timely implementation and ways of finding a durable solution to the current crisis in the Middle East, the Ministerial meeting of the NAM Committee on Palestine and the NAM Security Council Caucus being one such effort. The Movement, through chairing South Africa's Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, was utilising all NAM mechanisms to highlight the need for a peacefully negotiated settlement in the Middle East. (AFP)

A Palestinian police officer was killed by Israeli fire at the Brazil refugee camp, near the Rafah crossing point between the southern Gaza Strip and Egypt. Local officials said the Israeli army had opened fire on Palestinians who were trying to stop bulldozers clearing an area of land near the frontier, killing a police captain and injuring four other people, one seriously. (AFP, Reuters)

2

An early morning IDF incursion into the Brazil refugee camp resulted in the killing of a Palestinian teenager and the wounding of 17 more people. The Israeli armoured vehicles and bulldozers that penetrated some 100 metres into the Palestinian-controlled camp destroyed 18 houses and a number of farm buildings, and damaged a mosque. A 17-year-old died from gunshot wounds in his chest, while a little girl and her father were in serious condition among those wounded. UNRWA personnel brought in tents, blankets, mattresses and cash handouts for the newly homeless. The Israeli army said troops moved in to destroy buildings used by Palestinian gunmen as cover to fire at soldiers and as bases for planting roadside bombs. PA General Security Chief Abdel Razeq Al-Majeida said the Israeli action constituted a “dangerous escalation”. (AFP, AP, EFE, Reuters)

Prime Minister Sharon convened his “security cabinet” in the West Bank settlement of “Ofra”, a resident of which had been killed in a Palestinian ambush the previous day. This was the first such meeting to take place inside the Occupied Palestinian Territory, according to AFP. Led by the Prime Minister, nine of the 13 Ministers who regularly attend the restricted cabinet sessions were present at the meeting, where they heard reports on security from IDF Chief of General Staff Shaul Mofaz and other senior officers. “Our aim is to achieve a return to security. That demands patience, perseverance and intransigence. But no political consideration is going to restrict our efforts to restore security”, Mr. Sharon had said before the meeting. (AFP)

US State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker said actions such as the Israeli incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas, including the latest incursion in the Rafah refugee camp and the bulldozing of Palestinian buildings, undermined efforts to defuse the situation and bring an end to the violence and escalation. Mr. Reeker also said the US had made clear to the Palestinians that they must carry out their responsibility to break the cycle of violence as well, and prevent continued provocative acts of violence emanating from areas under their control, including shootings, bombings, and mortar attacks. Such attacks from the Palestinian side similarly undermined efforts to defuse the situation, he added. (AFP, Reuters)

In response to a statement by Prime Minister Sharon that the Jordan Valley would remain in Israeli hands “forever”, PLO Executive Committee Member Zakaria Al-Agha told AFP this was proof that Mr. Sharon did not want peace on the basis of international legality but favoured the continuation of the occupation. Mr. Al-Agha added that an agreement would be impossible without an Israeli withdrawal to the 4 June 1967 line, stressing that the Palestinians would reject the annexation of a single square centimetre of their territory. In his statement made at the end of a condolence visit to a Jewish family in the “Ofra” settlement near Ramallah, Mr. Sharon also said, according to Israel Army Radio, that Israel would not discuss a freeze on Jewish settlement construction with the Palestinians. (AFP, XINHUA)

Foreign Minister Peres had a one-hour meeting with US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Washington, during which the two discussed the Egyptian– Jordanian peace proposal and what Mr. Powell referred to as the “ controversial issue” of settlement expansion. Mr. Peres reminded reporters that the Government of Prime Minister Sharon had adopted a policy of no new settlements, and noted that any Palestinian demands on existing ones could be discussed “around the negotiating table”. He said a ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians could only be brought about by the US, which was actually bringing the commanders of the two sides together to that end. Once violence had stopped and negotiations got started, Mr. Peres added, the Israeli suggestion was that they should be carried out “ face-to-face by the two parties, with the United States as a facilitator, not as a negotiator”. Secretary Powell noted that there was continued “ security coordination between the two sides at several levels, hosted by the United States”. He said Mr. Peres had indicated that the Israelis would be “moving more aggressively” on easing freedom of movement and economic activity for Palestinians in the Occupied Territory, “even at the current level of violence”. Mr. Powell described Mr. Peres's recent contacts with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians as “the beginning of a dialogue” but said progress would depend on reducing violence and reviving economic contacts between Israel and the Palestinians. (AFP, Reuters)

US State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker stated that the Fact-Finding Committee led by former Senator George Mitchell had delivered its draft report to the US Government on 1 May. Copies would also be given to the Israeli Government, the Palestinian Authority and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Mr. Reeker said the objective of the Committee had not been “to engage in any particular recrimination or accusation, but to work constructively with the Israelis and the Palestinians to provide an independent and objective review of the current crisis, with the goal of preventing a recurrence”. (AFP, Ha’aretz – English Internet Edition, Reuters)

3

PA Cabinet Secretary-General Ahmad Abdel Rahman called for a Euro-Arab summit on the “deteriorating situation”, through which pressure could be put on the US Administration to adopt a fairer and more objective stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also denounced the Israeli security cabinet meeting in the “Ofra” settlement the previous day as “a clear violation of the Palestinian territories”. PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath, back from a European tour, said European countries had made a “positive change” in their position and now favoured the Jordanian-Egyptian peace initiative. (AFP)

The French Government condemned what it called Israeli “reprisals” in the Gaza Strip, charging that they “added uselessly to the suffering of the civilian population”. French Foreign Ministry spokesman Franç ois Rivasseau said the reprisals carried out by the Israeli army in the Gaza Strip served to maintain a reprehensible tension. (DPA)

After his meeting with President Bush at the White House, Foreign Minister Peres told reporters he left “reassured and with a sense that we can move ahead in the direction of peace to achieve a complete peace”, adding that he had found Mr. Bush “totally devoted to the peace process” and “fully informed" on the situation. Mr. Peres reiterated Israel’s preference for face-to-face talks with the Palestinians, with the US in the role of facilitator, something the President reportedly said he would do “gladly”. The Foreign Minister said he had informed President Bush that Israel had decided “unilaterally and unconditionally” to improve economic conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, adding that restrictions on trade and movement of workers had been eased. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the President had once again made clear that he would not assume the high-profile peacemaking role of his predecessor, preferring instead to facilitate rather than force the peace, and had urged Israel to improve relations with neighbouring Arab nations like Egypt and Jordan, which had been trying to bring about a peace agreement. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

4

In a statement issued after their special meeting in Pretoria, Ministers of 18 Non-Aligned countries, mainly belonging to the NAM Committee on Palestine and the NAM Caucus in the UN Security Council, called for the revival of the Middle East peace process, the immediate implementation of existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements and the resumption of negotiations on a comprehensive final settlement. The Ministers expressed their support for the Jordanian-Egyptian initiative and welcomed Chairman Arafat’s commitment before them in this regard. They noted earlier attempts to deploy an international presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and stressed the critical importance for the provision of protection for Palestinian civilians, including through action by the Security Council. (AFP, Reuters)

A preliminary draft of the Fact-Finding Committee’s report was handed over to Israel and the PA. In Tel Aviv, the report was given to Israeli Minister without Portfolio Danny Naveh by US Ambassador Martin Indyk, while in Ramallah US Consul General Ronald Schlicher handed a copy to PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo. The two sides were to study the draft in the following two to three weeks and give their comments so that the report could be finalized. (AFP)

Residents of the West Bank “Beit El” settlement established a new settlement overnight, next to the location where an “Ofra” settler had been killed on 1 May. Israeli Army Radio reported that the new settlement consisted of four grocery shops, a tent, a bus, and peripheral lighting. A temporary IDF post was located adjacent to the settlement. Meretz Knesset Member Mussi Raz demanded that Israeli Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer remove the settlement immediately. Mr. Raz said that if the settlers were not evacuated, he would file a complaint against them. (Ha’aretz – English Internet Edition)

Israeli tanks fired four shells onto a Palestinian police post near Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, in response to a Palestinian mortar attack on the Kfar Aza kibbutz inside Israel. No injuries were reported in either case. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Sharon had visited settlements in the “ Gush Katif” block in the southern Gaza Strip, to reassure residents about their security. (AFP)

5

Israeli tanks shelled the Palestinian Intelligence Services headquarters in Jericho, wounding at least 15 people. According to Israel Radio, the IDF suspected the headquarters were used as a base from which to launch attacks against Israeli targets in the area. Earlier in the day, Palestinians accused Israel of assassinating a 35-year old leader of the Islamic Jihad organization, Ahmad Khalil Isma'eel near Bethlehem. The Israeli army denied any knowledge of the shooting. The same day, hospital sources in Gaza said a 45-year-old Palestinian police lieutenant died of wounds sustained on 28 April, when Israeli tanks shelled the Palestinian intelligence building in central Gaza. (AFP, DPA, The Jerusalem Post – Internet Edition)

Chairman Arafat called for a new summit to discuss the findings of the Fact-Finding/Mitchell Committee’s report. Foreign Minister Peres rejected the idea. (AFP)

6

Israeli Defence Minister Ben-Eliezer said that the IDF had a standing permit to enter the Palestinian-controlled areas for “emergency operations”. Earlier in the day, the IDF seized control of areas of Beit Jala for six hours after shots had been fired from houses in the village at an Israeli military roadblock along the Tunnel Road. During the IDF incursion, one Palestinian, Mohammed Abiat, 45, was killed and another 21 were injured, three of them seriously, including a five-year old boy who lost his arm. Later, Ribhi Arafat, head of the Palestinian Military Liaison and Coordination Unit, said that the IDF during the operations had moved border markers eastward, deeper into the Palestinian-controlled territory, and a new Israeli observation post had been set up in a tower in the Palestinian area. (Comtex Scientific Corporation, Ha’aretz – English Internet Edition, The Jerusalem Post – Internet Edition, Reuters)

7

Two Palestinians, including a four-month-old baby girl, were killed and 20 other people slightly hurt by shell-fire when Israeli forces struck at the town and refugee camp of Khan Yunis in retaliation for Palestinian mortar attacks on settlements. Earlier the Israeli army had launched a raid into the Palestinian-controlled town of Tulkarm, following an exchange of gunfire in which one Palestinian, Hussein Khader Abu Tamam, 45, was killed and some 10 others wounded. Israeli forces also made a brief incursion into Palestinian-controlled territory at Dar Salah, east of Bethlehem, in pursuit of a car from which shots had been fired on a patrol, setting off a 20-minute exchange of fire with Palestinian police. The Israeli army expressed its deep regrets for the death of the four-month baby. (AFP, Reuters)

According to Ha’aretz and the AFP, Prime Minister Sharon has ordered officials to begin planning three to five new settlements in the Haluza Dunes area of the Western Negev desert, in an effort to prevent any attempt to cede the area to Palestinian control under a peace agreement. Under the plans being formulated, 20,000 Israelis would live in the area by 2010. (AFP, Ha’aretz – English Internet Edition)

Khalil Toufakji, a senior Palestinian official, announced that the Jerusalem city authorities were planning to build a new Jewish quarter consisting of 300 homes in the Arab eastern part of the city. Mr. Toufadji said the homes would be built near the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood north of the city, on land confiscated by Prime Minister Sharon, then Tourism Minister, in 1990. (AFP)

A Palestinian policeman, age 22, was shot dead and four others were injured near Hebron. Palestinian officials said gunfire was exchanged when Israeli soldiers tried to enter the Palestinian-controlled town, but were stopped by Palestinian security forces on the outskirts. The IDF withdrew from the scene after the incidents. (Comtex Scientific Corporation, DPA).

Clashes erupted between the IDF and Palestinians in central Gaza as thousands of mourners assembled for the funeral of the four-months-old Palestinian girl killed on 7 May. Palestinian youths protesting the killing threw stones at Israeli soldiers close to the settlement of “Kfar Darom”. The soldiers opened fire at the youths, injuring at least 10, one seriously, hospital sources in Khan Yunis said. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz – English Internet Edition)

8

The Israeli incursions into territories under full Palestinian control were condemned by Russia. In a statement the Foreign Ministry said “the situation is being aggravated in large part by the ill-judged reaction of the Israeli side towards the activities of Palestinian extremists”. The statement further noted that “military operations have resumed in the areas under Palestinian jurisdiction, with the use of heavy weapons and armoured vehicles, [and] the number of casualties is increasing by the day”. (AFP, DPA)

US State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker questioned Israel’s allocation of additional funds “for a wide range of settlement activities, including construction of additional housing units and infrastructure”, when this activity “risk[ed] further inflaming the already volatile situation in the region and [was] provocative”. (Reuters)

Two Palestinian students were wounded by Israeli soldiers in clashes north of Ramallah, following an attempt to dismantle an army roadblock, witnesses said. Hundreds of students from Birzeit University had converged on the roadblock and had initially succeeded in moving the soldiers away from it. The students began to direct the traffic before being shot at by Israeli troops. Some students responded by throwing stones and two were hit by bullets. Four Palestinians were wounded by Israeli gunfire when clashes broke out between Palestinian protestors and Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources said. The clashes erupted east of Khan Yunis, during a demonstration against Israeli destruction of Palestinian land. One of the wounded was in serious condition. (AFP)

9

According to a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, China endorsed the joint Jordanian-Egyptian proposal as a “positive and constructive” initiative to end the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict and resume peace talks. The spokesman announced that “China is deeply concerned over the conflict and condemns Israel’s act of letting its army ‘re-enter’ Palestine and resort to force, which caused serious casualties”. He further noted, “as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China will continue to make its due contribution to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict as well as to resuming peace talks between the two sides”. (DPA)

During an incursion into Gaza, the IDF destroyed a Palestinian position and two buildings near Rafah, and uprooted trees and bush. The Palestinians reported 10 people injured during the operation. The IDF said it had destroyed a Palestinian police post adjacent to an Israeli-controlled road from which it charged Palestinians had thrown hand grenades, explosive devices and anti-tank grenades. PA General Security Chief Abdel Razeq Al-Majeida, said the troops had entered Palestinian-controlled territory, and at least three houses and two Palestinian police posts were destroyed by bulldozers protected by armoured vehicles in Yibna, one of three refugee camps in Rafah. The IDF insisted the area was under Israeli control according to interim peace agreements. (AFP, Ha’aretz – English Internet Edition)

10

Chairman Arafat met in Gaza with representatives from the Knesset’s Meretz faction. Israel Radio reported that Mr. Arafat had said he was ready for high- or low-level negotiations with Israel, based upon the findings of the Fact-Finding/Mitchell Committee and the joint Jordanian-Egyptian peace initiative. (Ha’aretz – English Internet Edition)

Following the killing of two Romanian workers and the wounding of a third in a bomb blast on the edge of the Gaza Strip, the IDF, supported by tanks, armoured vehicles and bulldozers, made another incursion into a Palestinian-controlled area at the Kissufim crossing and razed Palestinian farm land, according to Palestinian sources. Two Palestinians were injured, one seriously, in clashes with Israeli troops near the Karni crossing, Palestinian hospital sources said. The seriously injured Palestinian was a 12-year-old boy, who was shot in the head. Israeli missiles were fired at Gaza City. The attack targeted three buildings, including the headquarters of the security forces and of Fatah. Six Palestinians were wounded in the attack, according to Palestinian medical sources. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

Secretary Powell praised the report of the Mitchell Committee. Testifying before the House Appropriations Committee he said it was a “very, very fine report”, which could provide the basis for a new Middle East peace initiative. Mr. Powell’s comments were the first official US assessment of the report. (AFP, New York Times, Reuters)

Peter Hansen, Commissioner-General of UNRWA, launched an appeal for emergency donations, as the Agency’s US$70 million deficit was expected to grow by another US$90 million by year-end. The appeal, the second by UNRWA in 2001, was made at the end of a two-day informal meeting in Amman, which brought together 28 major donors and host Governments. Canada pledged an increase of 10 million Canadian dollars to UNRWA’s regular budget. (AFP, UN Newservice)

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan denounced the further escalation of fighting between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in Gaza and said only dialogue could resolve the differences. “We are all working very hard to get the parties to understand that they have to pull back from the precipice and sit down together to begin to resolve this issue”, Mr. Annan said. “It is only through dialogue that they can get a ceasefire, that the economic conditions can be eased, and they will find their way to the discussion of a final settlement”, he said, as he was leaving UN Headquarters for Washington. (Comtex Scientific Corporation, Reuters)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced it had restarted a programme under which West Bank Palestinians could visit relatives held in Israeli jails. The ICRC said the programme, which had been suspended more than seven months ago, was restarted in late April. Before the suspension, between 8,000 and 10,000 relatives of detained Palestinians benefited each month from the access and transport facilities provided by the ICRC. (AFP)

President Chirac, in a letter to Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon, expressed his deep concern over the situation in the Middle East and stated his readiness to promote mediation between the two parties. (Comtex Scientific Corporation)

11

A 16-year-old Palestinian teenager was shot in the chest and killed while throwing stones at the IDF in the Gaza Strip, near the Karni crossing. Twelve more Palestinians were hurt during gunfire with the IDF near Rafah. (AFP, Reuters)

The IDF made a three-hour, 700 metres-deep incursion into Palestinian-controlled Deir el-Balah in the southern Gaza Strip, destroying a police building and several houses before withdrawing. Israel Radio said the raid was mounted after two Israeli soldiers had been wounded, one seriously, by a grenade thrown at their position nearby by a Palestinian. (AFP, Comtex Scientific Corporation)

The European Commission approved a 10 million euro (US$8.8 million) humanitarian aid grant to help “vulnerable families” in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “Recent events have led to large-scale job losses and the economic situation has grown steadily worse with the passage of time”, the Commission said in a statement. The money would be channelled through the Commission’s humanitarian aid office ECHO for distribution of food, supply of water, sanitation and health care. (AFP)

Foreign Minister Peres, in a letter sent to Secretary Powell in reaction to the Mitchell Committee report, proposed a “new formula” that referred to “natural growth” in settlements as “demographic, not territorial”. Mr. Peres explained that “people are born in the settlements and therefore there is a need for natural growth”. But all the new construction in the settlements would be in their existing territorial areas and there would not be any physical expansion. Thus, according to Mr. Peres, Palestinian concerns about Israeli takeovers of more West Bank land would be allayed. (Ha’aretz – English Internet Edition)

12

Israeli helicopter gunships fired missiles at the car of a Palestinian intelligence officer in Jenin, killing Fatah activist Motassem Al-Sabagh and policeman Allam Jaludi. Palestinian officials said it was a deliberate assassination attempt targeted at intelligence officer Abdel-Karim Oweis, who was lightly wounded. Another Palestinian was killed and 10 injured, at least one critically, when an Israeli tank fired shells at the Maghazi refugee camp in Gaza. (AFP, Reuters)

13

Prime Minister Sharon again rejected the call for a freeze of Jewish settlements contained in the Fact-Finding Committee’s report. In a statement after his meeting with visiting Canadian Foreign Minister John Manley, his office said the Prime Minister saw some positive points in the report, such as the call on the PA to respect its commitments and take immediate measures to stop the violence, but noted that the accords reached with the Palestinians stipulated that the issue of settlements should be discussed within the final status negotiations. Regarding the Egyptian-Jordanian peace proposal, Mr. Sharon reiterated that Israel demanded a trial period for the halt of Palestinian attacks and agreements would only come after a period of total calm. (AFP)

Foreign Minister Peres told a joint press conference with Canadian Foreign Minister John Manley that the Israeli position was that there would not be any more settlements or confiscation of land. The only problem, according to Mr. Peres, was the natural growth in the existing settlements, which should take place without “territorial dispersion”. In response to the 12 May rocket attack on Palestinian activists, Mr. Peres stressed that Israel did not have a policy of killing people, but if someone was preparing a bomb and was on the way to Israel, that person had to be stopped. Mr. Manley, for his part, said the continuation of the settlements needed to stop and urged Israel to adopt the Fact-Finding Committee’s recommendations, including the ones on settlements. Mr. Peres called the report “a very important document” but said the Israeli Government was awaiting recommendations from President Bush and Secretary-General Kofi Annan before giving its official response. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post – Internet Edition)

The Israeli cabinet committee on Jerusalem affairs reaffirmed a decision taken during Mr. Barak’s tenure to build a ring road stretching from north to south, along the eastern limits of Jerusalem. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres reportedly clashed on the issue with Prime Minister Sharon and Mayor Ehud Olmert. Mr. Peres said this work required the confiscation of Arab land and the demolition of homes and maintained this should be avoided at such a critical time. The committee also backed decisions taken during the Netanyahu administration to allocate hundreds of millions of shekels for infrastructure in East Jerusalem. Neither decision could be implemented, however, because there was no budget for them. Mr. Sharon reportedly said action should be taken to close institutions linked with the Palestinian Authority that were active in East Jerusalem. (Ha’aretz-English Internet Edition, The Jerusalem Post-Internet Edition)

The underlying goal behind the IDF’s current operations was to “send signals to the Palestinian Authority, but not to bring about its collapse”, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Shaul Mofaz told the Israeli Cabinet. Responding to questions from Ministers, he said the political echelon’s directives had been for the IDF to “limit the PA’s freedom of action”. (Ha’aretz-English Internet edition, The Jerusalem Post - Internet Edition)

14

Five Palestinian policemen were killed by Israeli troops in the West Bank overnight. Palestinian officials said the five had been shot dead at a roadblock close to the town of Beitunia, near Ramallah, after Israeli soldiers opened fire in their direction without any reason. Speaking to reporters after meeting EU Middle East envoy Miguel Moratinos in Gaza, Chairman Arafat condemned the killings and said all but one of the policemen, whose duties included liaison with Israeli troops guarding a nearby military checkpoint, had been killed while sleeping. Two more Palestinians were later killed near the “Gush Katif” settlement block in the Gaza Strip, when Israeli troops opened fire on Palestinians on a nearby road. One of those killed had allegedly tried to throw two hand grenades at an army post, while the other one was an unarmed passer-by riding a taxi. Six more Palestinians were also wounded in the gunfire. According to AFP, the latest killings brought the overall toll, since the beginning of the intifada to 531, comprising 437 Palestinians, 78 Israelis, 13 Israeli Arabs, two Romanians and one German. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli helicopters fired missiles against Palestinian targets across the Gaza Strip, including some around Chairman Arafat’s headquarters. Mr. Arafat emerged unhurt from the wave of strikes against security buildings, armoured vehicles, administrative offices and other targets, security sources said. Hospital sources added that 15 people were hurt, none of them seriously. Three or four were hurt during strikes on the sea-front security base and compound where Chairman Arafat lives, works and receives foreign dignitaries. An Israeli military spokesman said in Jerusalem that the attacks were in response to “continuing Palestinian terrorist activities and the escalation of violence in recent days”. He added that combat helicopters had attacked armoured vehicles of the Palestinian Authority in areas of Gaza City, north of Khan Yunis and near the refugee camp at Jabalia, hitting at least nine targets. The spokesman said the Israeli navy had earlier attacked an observation post of the Palestinian maritime police near Nuseirat, in the center of the Gaza Strip. Hours before, two Israeli tanks and three bulldozers had been sent in to flatten two Palestinian homes, some 150 metres into autonomous Palestinian territory near the Rafah refugee camp. PA Cabinet Secretary-General Ahmad Abdel Rahman said the Palestinians had asked the United States, Russia, Europe, China and Japan for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to stop Israeli attacks and provide international protection for the Palestinians. He said the aim of the strikes was to hit the PA and destroy Palestinian infrastructure as well as the peace process. (AFP, Reuters)

In a statement issued after an emergency meeting in Cairo, the League of Arab States (LAS) called on the United Nations, the United States, Russia, the European Union and China to take “immediate” measures to stop continued Israeli aggressions against the Palestinians and secure Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian areas, MENA reported. The meeting was held at the request of the Palestinian side to discuss the worsening situation amid repeated Israeli incursions into the Palestinian self-rule areas and excessive use of force against unarmed Palestinians. The LAS again called for the provision of international protection to the Palestinians and mandated its Secretary-General to seek a meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the situation in the Middle East. Palestinian ambassador Mohamed Subeih called on the US not to veto moves to provide international protection for the Palestinians at the Security Council. (XINHUA)

During their regular monthly meeting in Brussels, the EU Foreign Ministers – meeting as the EU General Affairs Council – “discussed the worrying situation in the Middle East”, a statement said, adding that they “called on the parties to take all necessary measures to stop the tragic escalation and urged them to work for a ceasefire”. The Council “ welcomed and gave its support” to the Fact-Finding Committee’s report, as well as to the Jordanian-Egyptian initiative to end the fighting. It mandated EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Fact-Finding Committee member Javier Solana “to explore, in consultation with all the other participants in the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit of October 2000, ways of ensuring political follow-up to the conclusions of the Fact-Finding Committee's report”. Presiding Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh regretted the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed, saying: “It is clearly excessive use of violence that we have seen in recent days.” (AFP, DPA)

In a statement through his spokesman, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan referred to the Fact-Finding Committee’s report as “a fair and balanced analysis of the causes of the present crisis”. The statement said the Secretary-General had written to President Bush “to express his appreciation for the Committee's emphasis on the need for a halt of all settlement activity; to support the call for maximum effort to control violence in all its forms; and to stress the economic and social crisis facing the Palestinian people”. He added that “full implementation of the report’s recommendations could, in conjunction with the Jordanian-Egyptian initiative, help build a bridge back to negotiations towards a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East”. (AFP, Reuters)

15

Thousands of Palestinians joined mass street protests across the West Bank and Gaza Strip to mark Al-Naqba (The Catastrophe), the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians when Israel was founded in May 1948. In a pre-recorded televised address to the Palestinian people, Chairman Arafat said that peace should be based on justice, equity and recognition of the Palestinians’ rights, otherwise it could not be established at all in the region. He added that the road to peace was very clear and entailed a full withdrawal of Israel’s army and settlers from Palestinian and Arab lands to the borders of 1967, the resolution of the refugee problem, and respect for international legitimacy. Chairman Arafat also called for a resumption of peace talks with Israel on the basis of the Jordanian-Egyptian initiative and the Fact-Finding Committee findings. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli forces killed a bodyguard of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, allegedly as he was firing mortar bombs at Israel from the Gaza-Israeli border. Another Palestinian, 17 years old, was killed during clashes with Israeli soldiers near the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing point between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Two more Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli troops in violent clashes in Ramallah. Dozens of Palestinians were injured, some critically, in clashes throughout the Occupied Territory. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)

The Jordanian-Egyptian peace initiative and the report of the international Fact-Finding Committee could serve as basis for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the new Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said. The newly-sworn-in Foreign Minister made his first public remarks after the meeting that he also attended between President Mubarak and Chairman Arafat in Sharm el-Sheikh, MENA reported. The two leaders discussed the Jordanian-Egyptian peace plan for ending the violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, contacts between Egypt and other concerned parties to stop Israeli continued aggression, and the Palestinian response to the Fact-Finding Committee’s report, Mr. Maher said. They agreed to continue consultations between Egypt and the Palestinians, as well as the other concerned parties, in a bid to end Israeli escalating attacks on the Palestinians, the Minister added. (XINHUA)

Chairman Arafat’s PLO deputy Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) met Secretary Powell in Washington. They were joined for part of the more than one-hour-long meeting by US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. According to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher the discussion was “thorough and extensive” and covered “the full range of issues in the Middle East'”, including the Jordanian-Egyptian proposal and the Fact-Finding Committee’s report. Regarding the report, Mr. Boucher said that Secretary Powell had received formal responses from the Israelis, the Palestinians and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The State Department would release the responses along with its own assessment “in the coming up period”, Mr. Boucher said. (AFP, DPA, The Los Angeles Times)

Speaking to a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, Secretary Powell defended his earlier position that the Israeli response to Palestinian-incited violence had been disproportionate and suggested that the “sharp” Israeli response did not produce the desired results, so it was time for both sides to find ways to break the cycle of violence. (Los Angeles Times)

16

According to AFP, the Israeli response to the Fact-Finding Committee’s report called the document “constructive and positive” but rejected its call for a total settlement freeze and its criticism of “excessive” use of force against Palestinians. “The question of the settlements is a matter that, together with, principally, Jerusalem, refugees and borders, has specifically been agreed by Israel and the Palestinian side as one for treatment in the permanent status negotiations”, the response written by Minister without Portfolio Dan Naveh reportedly said. It also claimed that violence was not initiated by Israel, which exclusively responded to Palestinian attacks. According to PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, the Palestinian Authority fully accepted the Committee’s report, but would not accept “any reservations from any other party, especially Israel”. “The need for a comprehensive application of the Committee’s report is extremely important, given Israel’s clear strategy of publicly accepting the report, while rejecting the only recommendations giving the report credibility in Palestinian eyes: a freeze of settlements and revision of Israeli military policies”, Mr. Abed Rabbo said, and invited the international community to call a meeting at the highest level of all parties concerned, “in order to develop a mechanism for the timely implementation of the Committee’s recommendations”. From the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Chairman Arafat called again for a new Summit at Sharm el-Sheikh to bring together the October 2000 Summit participants in order to discuss the Fact-Finding Committee’s report. (AFP, XINHUA)

Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, whose country was holding the rotating EU presidency, said the EU fully endorsed the Fact-Finding Committee’s report. She said Prime Minister Sharon bore primary responsibility for the increased level of confrontation since his coming into office, called the Israeli settlement policy “at odds with international law”, and “a serious obstacle to peace”, and urged Israel to withdraw from the settlements. Ms. Lindh also repeated the EU’s criticism of Israel’s “selective assassination of people” and armed incursions into Palestinian areas. “The main responsibility for going back to the negotiation table is right now with [Prime Minister] Sharon. The Israeli Government has... to really make it visible that it wants to go back to the negotiation table”, Ms. Lindh said in response to a reporter’s question. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli troops killed a 14-year-old Palestinian boy near the “Netzarim” settlement and launched five separate raids into autonomous areas across the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security officers said. Israeli forces seized a dairy plant near the “Kfar Darom” settlement and a four-storey PA Housing Ministry building near the “Gush Katif” block of settlements, razed orange groves and bulldozed farm land near the “ Netzarim” settlement, in violation of the 1993 autonomy accords and international law, the officers said. They added that the Israelis intended to use the Housing Ministry building as an observation post, as it offered a view of the nearby Palestinian town of Al-Qarara. Israeli sources said Palestinian activists had fired mortar shells overnight from two of the areas that were targeted in the raids. In another incident, a Palestinian woman was seriously wounded and her daughter slightly hurt when Israeli tanks shelled the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip overnight, Palestinian medical and security sources said. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

An IDF statement said that “As part of defensive measures and security needs at this time, Israeli soldiers have taken position in houses in the Palestinian sector for various periods and for strictly military reasons responding to the norms of current hostilities, in accordance with international law”. The statement added that, in light of the serious security situation, the Israeli army has taken defensive measures to protect those travelling in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

After his meeting with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov stated that Russia, the US, EU countries, the UN and Arab leaders must jointly urge Israelis and Palestinians to hold talks. Mr. Ivanov added that it was time for relevant initiatives to “move on to the phase of practical realization”, saying that Russia was prepared to support any such initiatives that would contribute to a normalization of the situation. The Secretary-General, for his part, pointed out that there were two documents now, on which the Middle East peacemaking process should be based, namely the Jordanian-Egyptian initiative and the report by the Fact-Finding Committee. (AFP, ITAR-TASS)

Foreign Minister Peres told reporters he very much regretted the killing of the five Palestinian policemen earlier in the week and said that, if that was a mistake, it certainly was not intentional. During an address to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee on 15 May, IDF Chief of General Staff Shaul Mofaz had called for a commission of inquiry into the killing, which had also been severely criticised in the Israeli media. According to AFP, an anonymous senior Israeli source said the death of the five policemen was an error caused by bad information given to soldiers who took part in the operation. “We are not experimental elements for the Israeli army”, PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told reporters, and held Israeli Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and General Mofaz responsible for the killing. (AFP)

Israeli helicopter gunships launched two missiles into a police station and four missiles into a security building in the Gaza refugee camp of Jabalia late in the day, wounding 14 civilians, security and medical sources said. IDF said in a statement the strike was in response to several shooting incidents and other attacks against Israelis planned and carried out from the area. Gaza Preventive Security chief Colonel Mohammed Dahlan, whose office was damaged in the raid, visited the scene and said the aim was to make Palestinians yield to Israeli demands but the Palestinian people were not afraid. Helicopters also attacked and damaged Palestinian security offices in Jenin, which IDF claimed were “in charge of the development and production of arms and mortar launchers”. Several missiles also fell in a nearby refugee camp, but no casualties were reported in that raid, witnesses said. Israeli public radio said the raid also cut off electricity for Jenin residents. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

Following a working dinner in the Burgundy town of Vézelay, south-east of Paris, French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine and his German counterpart Joschka Fischer issued a joint statement, in which they described as “clear, courageous and useful” the Fact-Finding Committee’s recommendations. They added that these recommendations, as well as the Jordanian-Egyptian initiative, constituted a basis on which they called on the parties to work to end the violence. (AFP)

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A joint statement issued after an EU-Russia Summit in Moscow expressed grave concern over the escalating Middle East violence and called on Israel and the Palestinians to take immediate measures to put a halt to the spiral of confrontation and resume dialogue. Russia and the EU called for the resumption of the talks towards reaching agreement on the basis of the UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 and the Madrid principles. (AFP, ITAR-TASS)

The IDF shelled the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, wounding four Palestinians, hospital officials and witnesses said. Troops also staged a brief new raid into an area under Palestinian control, destroying houses in the town of Al-Qarara near Khan Yunis, WAFA reported. “The Israeli aggression will not force us to surrender”, Chairman Arafat told reporters upon return from Tunis. (AFP, DPA)

PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo sent a letter to the US Congress urging it to support the Fact-Finding Committee’s report, which he said “offer[ed] a sensible and coherent foundation for resolving the current crisis and preparing a path back to meaningful negotiation”. At the same time he warned that “selective application of the report’s recommendations by either side … will only undermine the opportunity that now lies before us”. He added that the Palestinians fully supported the immediate implementation of all the Committee’s recommendations “as a comprehensive package” and stressed that US involvement would be necessary to maintain the positive momentum created by the report. (AFP, DPA)

Foreign correspondents based in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory sharply protested in a letter to Foreign Minister Peres the treatment of journalists by the Israeli army, which almost claimed the life of a French television reporter. The bureau chief of TF-1, Bernard Aguirre, was filming a confrontation between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers in Ramallah on 15 May, when he was hit in the chest by a bullet. His life was saved by the bullet-proof vest he was wearing. Press reports said video clips clearly showed that a border policeman deliberately fired on the group of journalists. The President of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel and the Palestinian areas, Howard Goller, complained that all protests by correspondents to Israeli authorities had gone unanswered. (DPA)

The head of the ICRC delegation to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory René Kosirnik told a news conference that Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were a war crime under humanitarian law. Mr. Kosirnik called the news conference to discuss the Geneva Conventions, as they applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said the law of occupation applied also in Arab East Jerusalem. “The transfer, the installation of population of the occupying power into the occupied territories is considered as an illegal move and qualified as a ‘grave breach’. It is a grave breach, formally speaking, but grave breaches are equal in principle to war crimes”, the ICRC delegate said. He added that his organization had complained to Israel about “the proportionality” of the use of force against Palestinians since the start of the intifada. “The population under occupation should be able to live as normally as possible ... All persons should be treated humanely”, Mr. Kosirnik said. The ICRC also appealed in a statement for an end to the killing of children on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (AFP, Reuters)

Following a request by the Arab Group for an immediate Security Council meeting “to discuss the continuous escalation of repressive practices against the Palestinian population by Israel, the occupying power, in addition to its policy of premeditated assassination”, the Council held informal consultations. At the end of the consultations, Council President and Acting US Permanent Representative to the UN James Cunningham stated that the membership had expressed “their great concern with the continuing levels of violence and desire to do what [was] possible to promote resumption of dialogue to stabilize the situation”. He added that “There was widespread agreement in the Council that it was not appropriate to take a decision at this time” on fixing a date for a meeting. Speaking in his national capacity, he repeated that the US did not think a meeting at that time would be helpful, adding that the US wanted to “focus on the high-level contacts that are on-going”. Mr. Cunningham said that if a draft resolution were submitted to the Council and put to the vote, the US would veto it. (AFP, AP, Reuters, XINHUA)

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In reaction to a suicide bomb attack that killed at least seven persons and injured dozens more in the Israeli city of Netanya, the Secretary-General of Chairman Arafat’s office Tayyeb Abdul Raheem said in a statement that “The Palestinian Authority condemn[ed] operations against innocent civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli”. He called on the Israeli Government to “pull the region out of the cycle of violence that kills civilians on both sides”, adding that an easing of the violence would require “wisdom and calm rather than more raids and deaths”. (AFP, Reuters)

Just hours after the Netanya suicide bomb attack, Israeli F-16 fighters struck a Palestinian security outpost in Nablus, killing eleven Palestinians and injuring several more, including inmates in an adjacent prison. In a simultaneous strike, missiles were fired at a Force 17 building in Ramallah, resulting in one death. An IDF source confirmed that warplanes had been used in both attacks. “This is a new escalation. This is a new way of Israeli terror against Palestinian people. We will defeat Israeli occupation. This is definite. This is state terrorism,” PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told reporters in Ramallah. The use of warplanes by Israel against Palestinian targets was justified by the “seriousness” of the deadly Palestinian suicide attack in Netanya, Prime Minister Sharon’s spokesman Raanan Gissin told AFP. “We know very well that Hamas has claimed responsibility, but we hold the Palestinian Authority directly responsible and that is what we wanted to show it”, he added. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan made the following statement on the escalation of violence in the Middle East:


(UN Press Release SG/SM/7810, M2 PressWire)

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The Swedish EU presidency said in a statement that it was “appalled” by the upsurge in violence during the last few days and appealed to the leadership of both sides to “condemn the bloodshed and to do all within their power to halt the vicious circle of escalation”. “The human cost in terms of the number of people killed or injured is horrifying”, the statement said. “The killing of innocent policemen, mortar shellings, suicide attacks and war-like air assaults are all proof of desperation. Both parties have miscalculated that it is the other side which bears the sole responsibility for the escalation of the conflict and the stalemate in the peace process”, the statement added, urging the two sides to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible. (AFP, Reuters)

Qatar, as president of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), urged the UN Security Council to act in the face of Israel’s “savage aggressions” against the Palestinians. Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani made the call in a meeting in Doha with the ambassadors of the five permanent Security Council members, the official news agency QNA reported. (AFP)

The Arab League follow-up committee of Foreign Ministers met in Cairo and recommended “stopping all Arab political contacts with the Israeli Government as long as the aggression and blockades against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority continue”. The committee also agreed to keep backing the Palestinian uprising against Israeli occupation “whatever the price”, Secretary-General Amre Moussa said. The committee requested the UN Security Council and the General Assembly to hold emergency meetings to deal with the grave situation triggered by Israeli escalating attacks on Palestinian targets in Gaza and the West Bank, while reiterating the call for international protection for unarmed Palestinians. It mandated its chairman, Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul Ilah El-Khatib, and Mr. Moussa to lobby UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the president of the European Union and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council for such protection, a statement said. The committee also reaffirmed Arab countries’ political and financial support to the Palestinians' struggle against the Israeli occupation and empowered Secretary-General Moussa to follow up “immediate” delivery of financial aid to the Palestinian National Authority and conduct further fund raising. (AFP, XINHUA)

Helicopter gunships targeted PA security buildings in Jenin and Tulkarm. Palestinian medical sources told AFP that five members of Palestinian security forces were wounded lightly in the attack on Tulkarm. Earlier in the day, a member of the Palestinian national security forces was fatally shot three times in the heart in an attack on a Palestinian security post in the village of Silat al-Harthiah, near Jenin. A 20-year-old Palestinian was fatally wounded in the head when Israeli forces fired on a crowd of around 500 Palestinian stone-throwers in Nablus, medical sources and witnesses said. At least two more Palestinians were injured in the incident, which occurred after the funeral procession of 11 of the 12 Palestinians killed in the 18 May air strikes, medical sources said. Meanwhile, Palestinian hospital sources in Gaza City said a 30-year-old Palestinian had been shot dead while he was working on his land near the Karni border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel. (AFP)

20

Israel had set up at least 15 new settlement sites in the West Bank since Prime Minister Sharon came to power in March, the Peace Now movement said, adding that the sites were between 200 metres and two kilometres from existing settlements and two of the sites were rebuilt after having been dismantled by the Barak Government. The Israeli Housing Ministry denied the sites listed by Peace Now were new settlements, saying the construction fell within boundaries charted in masterplans approved by previous Governments. Peace Now spokesman Didi Remez said the group did not know if the outposts fell within the settlements’ existing boundaries, because they did not have access to the plans. “The point is that this Government is misleading people when it says it is not setting up new settlements”, he said, adding that Mr. Sharon’s settlement policy could further aggravate the spiralling violence. Meanwhile, Israeli public radio reported that dozens of Israeli settlers had gathered to build an encampment on the roadside spot where a settler had been shot dead two days earlier near Ramallah. (AFP, Reuters)

President Mubarak said he feared the situation in the Middle East might reach a “point of no return”, after Israel’s use of warplanes against Palestinian towns on 18 May, and called on the international community to persuade Israel to halt its attacks. “What is happening will lead to a catastrophe and harm the interests of foreign powers in the region”, he noted, referring to the West and the US in particular. He described as “ astonishing” the recourse by Israel to F-16 fighters and stressed that “Everybody has to understand that the use of military force will not bring security to the region. It will provoke a catastrophe for the Israelis and for us [Arabs] also”. Mr. Mubarak accused Israel of trying to “ abort” an Jordanian-Egyptian initiative to end the violence and restart peace talks. According to Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher President Mubarak had phoned his US and Swedish counterparts, Secretary Powell and Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh, as well as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, urging them to “put an end to the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people”. He had also asked Washington “not to impede the UN Security Council meeting to discuss the explosive situation in the Palestinian territories”. (AFP, Reuters)

Three Israeli tank shells hit the Ramallah house of PA West Bank Preventive Security chief Jibril Rajoub, while he was inside. Five of his bodyguards were reportedly hurt. “The Israelis are insisting on assassinating every Palestinian, whether he is a civilian, whether he is a leader, whether he is a simple person,” Mr. Rajoub told reporters. The IDF denied the accusations and said that troops near Ramallah had come under Palestinian fire and responded with tank shells at “the precise source of the fire, which was definitely from the courtyard of Jibril Rajoub’s house”. Palestinian sources denied there was any shooting from the house. “He is not a target. On the contrary, we want to talk to him”, Israeli Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Israeli television. (AFP, Reuters)

21

Israeli helicopter gunships fired at least seven missiles at Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip, prompting new Palestinian demands for international intervention, which Israel quickly dismissed. Palestinian officials said the helicopters had also opened fire with machine-guns in the Gaza Strip slightly wounding a night watchman. The blasts damaged a car mechanic’s workshop, a marble factory and a library. The IDF said the helicopters had hit a factory used to make mortar bombs. Two men were killed by Israeli soldiers near the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The IDF said Israeli soldiers located near the camp had fired at two Palestinians, who were placing a bomb at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Palestinians sources, however, said the two men, aged 45 and 27, had been working in a field when Israeli soldiers shot at them. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

A Palestinian patient in Hebron’s main hospital was injured in a fierce exchange of fire overnight between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen, hospital officials said. Voice of Palestine radio said the hospital had been bombarded with shells and heavy machine-gun fire. The IDF imposed a curfew on Palestinian residents of the Israeli-controlled sector of the city. (AFP)

EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana called from Cairo for an “immediate and unconditional” ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians. He made the call at a press conference following discussions with President Mubarak and asked both sides to accept a Jordanian-Egyptian peace initiative and the Fact-Finding Committee’s recommendations, two documents which “show us the way forward”. Mr. Solana criticized Israel’s use of F-16 fighter jets in attacks on Palestinian targets and warned that violence between Israel and the Palestinians could spill over into the wider region. (AFP, DPA, EFE, XINHUA)

Fact-Finding Committee Chairman and former US Senator George Mitchell officially presented the Committee’s report at a press conference in New York. (AFP, DPA)

Secretary Powell named US ambassador to Jordan William Burns as his “ special assistant” for the Middle East. Mr. Burns, awaiting Senate confirmation for the post of Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, would join the efforts of senior US diplomats in Israel and the Palestinian territories and would “make himself available to the parties”. He would help bring the Fact-Finding Committee’s recommendations into effect and “then set out the timeline for implementation of the confidence-building measures leading to the resumption of negotiations”, Mr. Powell noted, adding that once Ambassador Burns had completed his initial round of discussions, Mr. Powell himself would determine what more he could do in a personal way to promote the process. Mr. Powell, who endorsed the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Committee’s report, refused to link the ceasefire with a freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “It is not linked ... to ending the violence. We should end the violence, and none of the confidence-building measures or all the confidence-building measures together are not linked to ending the violence. It’s a very clear sequence,” he said, adding that what he wanted to see was what possibilities existed “to bridge the very sharp disagreements that exist between the two sides with respect to expansion within existing settlements”. Mr. Powell also said that Jordanian-Egyptian proposals for a ceasefire and fresh negotiations could find a place in the “implementation plan” Mr. Burns would try to lay out. (Reuters)

Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that the release of the Fact-Finding Committee’s report could spur positive developments in the Middle East. At UN Headquarters, the Secretary-General told the press he thought there were elements in the report, which should allow the parties to take steps for a ceasefire, confidence-building measures, and, eventually, return to the negotiating table. He expressed the hope that this opportunity would not be wasted and that the parties would “seize it as a moment to step back from the precipice and try and end the violence in the region”. The Secretary-General also said he expected widespread support for the report, including from the EU and the US, and noted that the intense activity behind the scenes would hopefully bear results, sooner rather than later. For his part, the Secretary-General said he had been actively engaged in recent days, through telephone contacts with Washington, with leaders in the region and with UN officials on the ground, and these efforts would continue. (UN Newservice)

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In a statement issued by the Swedish EU presidency, the EU welcomed the publication of the Fact-Finding Committee’s report as “a realistic and balanced proposal” to work from, in order to restore calm in the Middle East and relaunch the peace process. The statement added that the Union expected both parties “to do their utmost to stop the violence and find a negotiated solution at this critical juncture” and stated its readiness to assist. The EU urged the parties to “faithfully adhere” to the Committee’s recommendations and, in particular, “to take immediate and unconditional steps to cease all violence, to resume security cooperation and to exchange confidence-building measures, including a halt to settlement activities”. It said these were all important elements for the resumption of negotiations that should be conducted on the basis of international law, in particular UN resolutions 242 and 338, and the principle of land for peace. “The Mitchell [Fact-Finding Committee] Report and the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative have provided the parties with the means to break the vicious circle of violence”, the statement said. (AFP)

At a televized news conference, Prime Minister Sharon called on the Palestinians to agree to an immediate ceasefire, after which they could “begin carrying out the outlines of the [Fact-Finding Committee’s] report”. He said he had told Secretary of State Powell that Israel regarded the report “as a positive basis, which could enable the two parties to break through the violence and return to negotiations”. On the issue of settlements, Mr. Sharon said there was no link between them and the end of violence, and suggested a formula could be found that would satisfy the Palestinians but would also allow for the settlements to expand according to their current needs. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Chairman Arafat’s advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Mr. Sharon was trying to circumvent the Fact-Finding Committee’s proposals. He stressed that the only way to stop the violence was to implement rather than go around the Committee’s report, the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings, and the Jordanian- Egyptian initiative. (AFP)

The UN Security Council membership voiced its full support for Secretary-General Kofi Annan's efforts to resume dialogue among the parties to the Middle East conflict and expressed its backing for the just-released report of the Fact-Finding Committee led by former US Senator George Mitchell. “Council members welcomed the publication of the Mitchell committee report and the positive reactions to the report from the parties”, the Council President, US Ambassador James Cunningham, told reporters following a closed-door briefing of the Council by the Secretary-General. He added that Council members appealed to the parties to “give serious consideration to the committee's recommendations, and called on them immediately to begin the steps required to implement those recommendations, including on confidence-building measures”. In that context, Ambassador Cunningham said Council members welcomed the 21 May statement by Secretary of State Powell and “its demonstration of US engagement”. Calling for an unconditional cessation of violence by both sides, the Council members expressed support “for all efforts to bring violence to an end, build confidence, and advance the prospects for peace”, noting the positive contributions made by the Egyptians and Jordanians. In his comments to the press after briefing the Council, the Secretary-General also voiced his support for Secretary Powell’s expressed intention to strengthen his team in the region to assist the parties in their search for a solution. The Fact-Finding Committee’s report, as well as proposals put forward by the Egyptians and Jordanians, offered a possible “way out”, Mr. Annan said, and expressed the hope the parties would seize this opportunity and work with the international community “to come out of this tragedy”. The Secretary-General add ed that he was in constant contact with leaders from the region and around the world and said he had indicated to the Council that he would keep up his active involvement and, at the appropriate time, he would be ready to go to the region. (UN Newservice; for the full text of the statement made by the Security Council President see:

http://www.un.int/usa/01_072.htm)

Israeli troops backed by tanks made incursions into two areas near Gaza City, as well as in the towns of Al-Qarara, Deir el-Balah and Rafah. In the first incident, tanks crossed from Israel and set up a new position on farm land south-east of Gaza City, while in another area of Gaza City tanks and bulldozers razed land. In Al-Qarara, Deir el-Balah and Rafah, tanks and bulldozers razed farmland. A Force 17 member died of injuries he had sustained in a gunfight in Beitunia, near Ramallah, on 18 May. (AFP)

China expressed its concern over escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians and aggravated tension in the Middle East. Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said at the Ministry’s regular briefing that “ China oppose[d] all forms of terrorist violence and condemn[d] the excessive use of force by Israel, which [had] resulted in great Palestinian casualties and property losses”. “We call on the Israeli and Palestinian side to cherish the outcome of talks which have not come about easily and to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible”, Mr. Zhu Bangzao said, adding that the international community should make concerted efforts to stop the spread of the conflict and to calm the tension as soon as possible. (AFP, XINHUA)

President Bush welcomed the call for a ceasefire made by Prime Minister Sharon in response to the Fact-Finding Committee’s report, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, adding that the US would also welcome a similar statement from the Palestinians. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

A statement issued by the Palestinian Authority said it regretted Prime Minister Sharon’s objections to the Fact-Finding Committee’s report and his insistence on his previous views regarding settlement expansion. The statement demanded immediate implementation of the entire report, without either side being able to choose the recommendations that suited it best. Mr. Sharon, the statement said, was picking and choosing, “in an effort to justify his continued aggression and his siege of the Palestinian people”. The PA statement also called for an international conference to formulate “a practical mechanism” for implementing the Fact-Finding Committee’s report. (Ha’aretz – English Internet Edition, Reuters, XINHUA)

Following Prime Minister Sharon’s call for an immediate ceasefire, Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer instructed IDF to halt their operations against the Palestinians and to open fire only in life-threatening situations. IDF spokesman Ron Kitrey said that, under the new guidelines, soldiers would “protect themselves and prevent terror attacks”, but would not initiate any fighting with Palestinians. He added that troops would require government approval to enter areas under Palestinian control or carry out reprisal attacks, reportedly a change from a policy where Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer had given field commanders a free hand to launch incursions. PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said Mr. Sharon’s call for a ceasefire was “misleading and inaccurate, since this is not a war between two armies and two States but rather an aggression by an occupation army against an occupied people”. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

23

Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon both assured President Bush that they would work to implement the Fact-Finding Committee’s report, the White House said. In separate telephone calls, Mr. Bush had urged both leaders to “seize the opportunity” to end Middle East violence by implementing the report’s recommendations. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said “their response was that both agreed to work with us on a framework for the implementation of the Mitchell committee report”. (AFP, Reuters)

A t the end of their two-day summit in Cairo, the 21 countries of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) “condemned the violence unleashed by Israel on the Palestinian people and called upon Israel to stop immediately that violence”. They also urged Israel “to accept and implement relevant UN resolutions aiming at achieving a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East”. (AFP)

Following talks with President Chirac in Paris, Chairman Arafat called for a “full and immediate implementation of the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative and the Mitchell report”. He reiterated his call for an urgent meeting of the participants in last October’s Sharm el-Sheikh Summit that established the Fact-Finding Committee under former US Senator George Mitchell, along with the Committee members themselves. The new meeting should take place “as soon as possible in order to work on the implementation of the recommendations of the Mitchell [Committee] and establish at the same time a mechanism for implementation and a calendar”, Mr. Arafat said. President Chirac also called for a “real and complete” implementation of the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Committee’s report and praised Chairman Arafat’s “will for peace”, his spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said, adding that the President had expressed “his serious concern at the continued deterioration of the situation since last autumn”. Following talks earlier with Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine, Chairman Arafat had said he favoured a “return to the negotiating table as soon as possible”. (AFP, DPA, XINHUA)

The Russian Foreign Ministry voiced its support for the Fact-Finding Committee’s report, saying it was necessary to use it “as effectively as possible, along with the Egypt-Jordan peace initiative, in order to tackle the situation” in the Middle East. “We hail all the steps made in that direction by the Israelis and the Palestinians”, the Foreign Ministry statement said, adding that the “main goal of efforts of all concerned parties should be restoration and progress of the peace process on all negotiation tracks on the basis of the Madrid principles, resolutions 242 and 338 of the UN Security Council, available accords and decisions”. (AFP, ITAR-TASS)

Israeli troops, backed by tanks, made incursions into three Palestinian-controlled areas in the Gaza Strip, with tanks firing two shells at a Palestinian police position south of Gaza City, Palestinian sources said. One of the incursions took place in the refugee camp of Maghazi, where two tanks and two bulldozers drove 100 metres into Palestinian-controlled territory, destroyed olive trees and an irrigation system, a camp resident said. (AFP, AP, MSNBC)

24

Prime Minister Sharon still wanted to continue the “unilateral ceasefire” plan he had announced on 22 May, the chief of the Prime Minister’s Bureau Uri Shani told Israel Radio. He said the Israeli army would continue to “desist from initiating actions against the Palestinians for a short while longer”, despite the continued escalation of the violence on the ground. Earlier in the day, Israeli Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze'evy had stated that Israel’s decision to hold its fire would last only about three days and that Mr. Sharon's ceasefire announcement was “a ploy”, aimed at proving to the world that “it was Arafat who was initiating the violence, not Israel”. (XINHUA)

UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen told reporters in Damascus the Agency suffered a “budgetary crisis this year of grave proportions” and called on donors to provide all possible financial aid to help it meet the needs of Palestinian refugees in Syria and elsewhere. He added that, on a budget of US$311 million approved by the UN General Assembly, the UNRWA still faced a shortage of over US$60 million. “Unless we receive additional funds over the next few months, the Agency will simply run out of cash by the end of October and will not be able to provide the Palestine refugees, not only in the West Bank and Gaza but also in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, with the education, health care and social services for which they depend on UNRWA”, Mr. Hansen said. He indicated that a lot of people were hopeful that a solution to the plight of the refugees was close at hand, but the events of the past eight months, and especially of recent weeks, constituted a major setback to those hopes and had a profound effect on the day-to-day work of UNRWA. (DPA)

PA Industry Minister Sa’di Al-Krunz said Palestinian manufacturers had complained about Israel seizing raw materials at seaports and international crossings, a move that dealt a further blow to the already fragile Palestinian economy. He said he had spoken to representatives of the Israeli Ministry of Industry and Trade, who had told him that the ban was due to security reasons, as the materials could be used in manufacturing explosives. Minister Al-Krunz said the banned chemicals were badly needed for pharmaceutical industries, cosmetics, shoes and others. He said Israel also prohibited exporting Palestinian goods, mainly stone and marble, textile, leather and shoes, adding that many of the 800 industries in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had shut down because of the lack of raw materials. “This is part of Israeli methods to destroy the Palestinian Authority and its economy and to force Palestinians to import through Israeli clients”, the Minister said. He added that Israel had also imposed new restrictions on Palestinian trucks ferrying goods between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (Reuters)

A Palestinian leadership meeting under Chairman Arafat in Ramallah rejected any selective application of the Fact-Finding Committee’s report by Israel. “The Palestinian leadership rejects any Israeli attempt to chop up the Mitchell report”, said a statement issued after the meeting, and stressed the necessity to accept the document “as a whole and [to consider it as a complement] to the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative”. In the statement, members of the PA Cabinet and of the PLO Executive Committee accused Israel of “not having accepted the report globally and officially”. They supported Chairman Arafat’s call on 23 May in Paris for a new summit to discuss the report, bringing together participants at the Sharm el-Sheikh October 2000 Summit and the Fact-Finding Committee, and said such a meeting would be aimed at “outlining a calendar and the various stages for the application of the report”. (AFP)

Ha’aretz quoted Chairman Arafat’s PLO deputy Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as saying that if the main recommendations of the Fact-Finding Committee’s report were not implemented simultaneously, the initiative would be doomed. He added that a clear timetable must be drawn up to implement the recommendations, listing five main topics: security cooperation, ending economic sanctions, a settlement freeze, implementing outstanding clauses of existing agreements and beginning negotiations on a final-status deal. According to Mr. Abbas, all these issues must be dealt with simultaneously and the timetable for their realization should include target dates for each item’s implementation. “If the programme is not comprehensive, it will not be possible to follow it”, he said, noting in particular that there was no hope of success if the US accepted Israel’s insistence on a ceasefire independently of the implementation of the other recommendations. (Ha’aretz – English Internet Edition)

A 20-year-old deaf mute Palestinian was killed when he was shot in the chest in the crossfire at the Yebna refugee camp on the southern tip of the Gaza Strip near the border with Egypt, security and hospital sources said. A 15-year-old boy was killed by a round to the heart from a heavy machine gun mounted on an Israeli tank, which was firing on the Tel Zharab area of Rafah, two kilometers west of the Yebna camp, medical sources said. Witnesses said the victim was 500 metres away from the tanks. The Israeli vehicles had emerged from a nearby settlement and opened fire on Palestinian areas, although there had been no fire from the Palestinian side, the witnesses said. The boy had been playing with a friend, who was shot and seriously wounded in the thigh, medical sources added. Earlier, an 11-year-old boy was shot in the neck while walking home from school near the Yebna camp at a time when witnesses said there were no clashes. Six other Palestinians were wounded during the gun battle, which lasted several hours, and during other incidents in the Rafah border area, medical sources said. Meanwhile, six Palestinians, including a five-year old child, were injured by Israeli automatic gunfire and tank shells in Beit Jala and in the Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem in the West Bank, Palestinian witnesses said. Israeli troops staged a brief incursion into autonomous Palestinian territory in Aida before pulling out, the same sources said. According to Israeli police, Palestinians had opened fire on the “ Gilo” settlement, in occupied east Jerusalem, opposite Beit Jalap, causing no injuries. (AFP)

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Israeli tanks opened fire, lightly wounding three Palestinian policemen, and advanced some 500 meters into territory under Palestinian control, after a van loaded with explosives blew up near an Israeli military position at the “NetWare” junction, at the edge of Gaza City, causing no casualties among the troops. (AFP, DPA)

In remarks published in Mari, Chairman Arafat’s PLO deputy Mahout Abbes (Abu Maze) said Israel and the Palestinians could still reestablish confidence, even after eight months of deadly violence. However, he pointed out how far short of mutual confidence the two sides were at the moment, by saying he had been the target of an assassination bid and noting that “some nuts” in Israel believed that killing the Palestinian leadership would “solve the problem”. Mr. Abbes told the newspaper that, despite the recent escalation, some contacts with Israel continued, primarily with Foreign Minister Peres, adding that the two sides could still reestablish confidence between them, as their interests and destiny demanded. He said there was a need to act quickly “to close this difficult chapter” in the conflict, but any ceasefire should be “part of a comprehensive agreement” that would include lifting the Israeli blockade on the Palestinians, freezing settlements, and resuming talks with a view to a definitive settlement. He stressed that the settlements “are the worst of provocations for the Palestinians”, who “daily see expropriations of land, the building of new houses and new roads”. If things continue this way, Mr. Abbes noted, there was no hope for peace. (AFP)

Speaking at a news conference after a suicide bomb exploded in the Israeli town of Had era and a truck blew up in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Sharon repeated “a call and hope that the head of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian Authority will finally instruct and call for a ceasefire”. He added that, in case of danger, Israel would not “sit with [their] hands tied”, but noted that the Israeli “tendency” was, “ even if we must wait a few more days, to give the PA the possibility of calling a ceasefire”. “We will make every effort to reach a political agreement”, Mr. Sharon said, adding that Israel wanted peace. Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Believer, speaking to Israeli Public Radio, seconded the Prime Minister’s call for a ceasefire, saying Israel was “ready to accept the danger and give the Palestinians the chance to stop the firing”. (AFP, Reuters)

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In a statement issued at the end of an emergency ministerial meeting of the OIC convened in Doha to “examine the dangerous situation in the Palestinian territories”, OIC members said they had decided to “halt all political contacts with the Israeli Government as long as the aggression and the blockade against the Palestinian people and its national Authority continue and as long as Israel refuses to implement [related] UN resolutions”. The statement called on the US “to promptly intervene to stop the Israeli aggression and prevent the Israeli Government from continuing to use lethal and internationally banned weapons against civilians, which has shaken the very foundations of regional security and stability and put the Middle East region on the brink of a destructive war”. It also called for an international criminal tribunal to try Israeli officials “as war criminals” responsible for “heinous massacres” and human-rights violations. It asked the United Nations to make Israel pay “reparations for moral and material losses” suffered by Palestinians and said the OIC members would once again lobby for a UN Security Council session that would authorize a special protection force for Palestinians, urging the US not to obstruct a resolution to that effect. The meeting also agreed on urgent financial aid to the Palestinians, without providing specific figures. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

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Israel had violated its five-day unilateral ceasefire 96 times in the Gaza Strip, PA General Security Chief Abdel Razeq Al-Majeida said. He specified that his office had recorded 36 cases of unprovoked shooting or shelling attacks on Palestinians, 28 incidents of bulldozing farmland and 21 incidents of raiding territory under self-rule. The attacks had resulted in the deaths of two Palestinian civilians and the wounding of 84 others throughout the Gaza Strip, he said in a statement. Bulldozers had razed land under Palestinian self-rule or under shared control with Israel, he added. There had been 11 general violations, including the Israeli army’s closing of roads, shooting at fishermen, firing sound bombs from helicopters, searching vehicles, and stopping a gasoline tanker, the statement said. His office documented the 96 incidents by listing the time they occurred, place and numbers of tanks and other army vehicles involved since the ceasefire was announced on 22 May. (AFP)

President Mubarak told Egyptian newspaper editors that Israel was deceiving the international community with false claims of a unilateral ceasefire in fighting with Palestinians. “The truth is Israeli shelling of Palestinian land and infrastructure has not stopped. This is deception of international public opinion”, the President was quoted as saying. (AFP, Reuters)

Two Palestinian shepherds were injured when Jewish settlers opened fire on them in the Palestinian village of Oris in southern Nablus, eyewitnesses said. One of the shepherds was shot in the stomach, and the second in the leg, the witnesses said, adding that the shooters were from the West Bank settlement of “Yitzhar”. (AFP)

US Middle East envoy William Burns held separate meetings with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon on implementation of the recommendations contained in the Fact-Finding Committee’s report. Defence Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who had also participated in the latter meeting, along with Foreign Minister Peres, said Israel had proposed the resumption of security coordination meetings, to which a senior Palestinian security official said Chairman Arafat had “agreed in principle”, but there were still key differences to be worked out on the timing and participants. Ambassador Burns said he had urged Chairman Arafat to do everything possible to stop “terrorist attacks”. During his meeting with Prime Minister Sharon, Mr. Burns received a pledge that Israeli forces would continue exercising restraint – although not indefinitely – despite the latest wave of bombings. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

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Ambassador Burns had a second round of meetings with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon. PA Minister and senior negotiator Saeb Erakat said Chairman Arafat and Amb. Burns had discussed the Fact-Finding Committee recommendations and the Egyptian-Jordanian initiative to end the fighting and renew peace talks. He told reporters that Mr. Arafat had presented Amb. Burns a map of 18 new West Bank and Gaza Strip Jewish settlements, which had been built on land Israel occupied in the 1967 war and were illegal under international law. A senior Palestinian official said the Palestinian side had agreed to attend US-hosted security talks with Israel. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

At least four people were wounded, one of them seriously, when Israeli forces opened fire on Palestinian homes in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian security sources said. Israeli tanks and bulldozers also penetrated Palestinian territory to a depth of between 150 and 200 metres east of Gaza City, security officials said. The bulldozers flattened the land and destroyed trees, the officials said. (AFP)

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Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli troops, two in the southern Gaza Strip and one in the West Bank, near Jericho. Following the killing of a settlement security officer near Nablus, the IDF re-imposed a closure on the city, while settlers went on the rampage in Hebron, throwing stones at Palestinian residents and damaging cars and a shop, witnesses said. In the Gaza Strip, six Palestinian police were wounded by tank shells fired on their post as they were sleeping near the “Netzarim” settlement, security sources said. Tanks and a bulldozer later penetrated several dozen meters into Palestinian controlled area nearby, felling orange trees and cutting a main north-south road, but they withdrew after several hours and reopened the road. A 50-year-old Israeli woman and a 16-year-old girl were killed in an attack on their car on the Jerusalem – Hebron road, near the “Neve Daniel” settlement, south-west of Bethlehem. The deaths brought to 575 the number of people killed since the outbreak of violence in late September 2000, comprising 470 Palestinians, 88 Israelis, 13 Arab Israelis, two Romanians and a German.(AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)

Israeli Housing and Construction Minister Natan Sharansky told Israeli Public Radio that his Ministry had approved the construction of more than 700 new homes in two West Bank settlements in response to “the urgent need for housing in these settlements, whose development [enjoys] a large consensus among the Israeli population”. 496 new housing units would be built in “Maale Adumim”, east of Jerusalem, and another 217 in “Alfei Menashe”, west of Nablus. The tenders had been prepared by the previous Israeli Government of Ehud Barak, Mr. Sharansky said. Mr. Sharansky’s announcement came as Foreign Minister Peres said Israel accepted the Mitchell report “in its entirety”, adding that Israel would not use the “pretext” of natural growth to expand settlements and would not create new ones. (AFP, DPA, EFE, XINHUA)

Following talks with visiting Chairman Arafat, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said his country would dispatch a special envoy to the Middle East the following week in a bid to put a halt to the escalating violence. Deputy Foreign Minister Vasily Sredin, President Putin’s special representative for the Middle East, would tour the region, Interfax reported. Mr. Ivanov urged Israel to reverse its stance and accept one of the main recommendations of the Fact-Finding Committee’s report, namely a halt to the expansion of Jewish settlements, as this would help resolve the other questions. He added that Russia and the US spoke “with one voice” on the Middle East and the important thing was to act together, on the basis of the Fact-Finding Committee’s report and the Jordanian-Egyptian initiative. For his part, Chairman Arafat said that the Palestinians urgently wanted Russia and other key members of the international community such as the US, the EU, the UN and Arab countries, to get involved and take coordinated action as soon as possible. Delays in efforts to contain the situation would “spark an explosion both in Palestine and all over the region”, Mr. Arafat had stressed upon arrival in Moscow. Chairman Arafat also held a two-hour meeting with President Putin, soon after the latter had held a telephone conversation with Mr. Sharon. President Putin welcomed Chairman Arafat and confirmed Russia’s readiness to contribute to the easing of tensions in the Middle East. (AFP, DPA, ITAR-TASS, Reuters)

US-sponsored talks between Israeli and Palestinian security officials near Ramallah led to no breakthrough. An Israeli Defence Ministry spokesman said afterwards that the Palestinians had made no commitment to stopping the violence. The head of the PA forces in the West Bank Haj Ismail Jaber said no progress had been achieved, as the Israelis had asked the Palestinian side for a ceasefire but the Palestinians insisted that the Israeli side stopped firing first. “We could not do anything unless Israel lifts the siege and pulls its forces back to the point where they were before clashes erupted”, Mr. Jaber said. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

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In a second round of talks under US auspices, senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials met for three hours at the Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Participants included Israeli internal security service chief Avi Dichter and Southern Command General Doron Almog, on the Israeli side, and Gaza security chief Abdel Razeq Al-Majeida and intelligence chief Amin al-Hindi, on the Palestinian side; US intelligence officials also attended. “It was decided to continue security meetings in the coming days to try to formulate conclusions likely to be effective on the ground”, an Israeli Defence Ministry statement said, adding that “Israel demanded a halt to acts of violence and terrorism” and reiterating the Israeli commitment to work towards easing the tension. Mr. Al-Majeida said the Palestinians were awaiting an Israeli response to the legitimate demands they had conveyed, namely that Israel lifts the closure; opens all passages and Gaza Airport; allows more workers into Israel and gives fishermen free movement; and returns eight Palestinian houses occupied by soldiers in the Gaza Strip. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Following a meeting with Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson in Copenhagen, Chairman Arafat appealed for the urgent dispatch of international observers “from the European Union, from the United Nations, from the co-sponsors and from everywhere to stop the violence and to protect the peace process”. Mr. Persson, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, reiterated the need for both Israel and the Palestinians to take immediate steps to end the violence, thus building momentum for a political solution, and said the EU was prepared to play a constructive role in the region. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Speaking at the Knesset, Prime Minister Sharon defended his policy of relative restraint, despite increased criticism in the face of new Israeli casualties, and said that the unilateral ceasefire would remain in effect for the time being. “The campaign is not only military. We must stand up to a complex and complicated diplomatic battle, and win it”, Mr. Sharon said. Earlier in the day, both the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Peres told a security cabinet meeting that the current situation was extremely complicated and that Israel should not play into the hands of Chairman Arafat, who wanted to internationalize the conflict. Mr. Peres also said that Israel should accept the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Committee in their entirety. (AFP, XINHUA)

Four Palestinian civilians were injured during an Israeli army incursion into a Palestinian-controlled area in the southern Gaza Strip. The four were caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between Israeli troops and Palestinians near the Rafah refugee camp on the border with Egypt, leaving one in a critical condition after being hit by a live bullet, medical sources and security officials said. Palestinian security officials said the confrontation erupted after two Israeli tanks and a bulldozer had penetrated several dozen metres into an area of Rafah under full Palestinian control and razed land. The Palestinians had earlier fired mortar shells on the southern Gaza Strip settlement of “Rafiah-Yam”, without causing any casualties, the IDF said. Israeli tanks also shelled a Palestinian security post in Rafah, causing some damage but no injuries, Palestinian security officials said. The Israeli army opened fire on the Yebna refugee camp nearby, triggering an exchange of fire, but no casualties were reported, the officials said. Between 20 and 30 settlers had installed a tent and caravan on a hillside near the site of the previous day’s settler shootings, south of the village of Al-Khader near Bethlehem, Palestinian witnesses said, adding that an army jeep was stationed nearby apparently to monitor the situation. The IDF had completely sealed off Bethlehem, preventing all pedestrian and vehicular traffic from entering and exiting the city, the witnesses said. (AFP)

Pope John Paul II sent Cardinal Pio Laghi on a peace mission to Jerusalem, to meet Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said. He added that Cardinal Laghi would hand over a personal message from the Pope encouraging both sides to accept a ceasefire and resume dialogue. The Cardinal was accompanied by Monsignor Giovanni d’Aniello of the Vatican’s Secretariat of State. (AFP, Reuters)

Israeli forces killed 300 Palestinians the previous year, most of them “unlawfully” during the intifada, and used “excessive lethal force”, Amnesty International said in its 2000 annual report. Amnesty said Israeli security services had also wounded more than 10,000 Palestinians. The majority of the dead and wounded were demonstrators throwing stones or using slings, Amnesty said, with at least 100 of those killed being children under the age of 18. The Israelis “used excessive lethal force, firing rubber-coated metal bullets and live ammunition, including high-velocity bullets at demonstrators”, the report said, and “deliberately targeted and extrajudicially executed” some Palestinians. The report also said the Israeli air force and navy used “heavy weaponry, including helicopter gunships, tanks and naval vessels, to shell randomly Palestinian areas”, from which gunfire had come. Amnesty said its members from around the world had called for the killings to stop and for the investigation of those that had occurred but, by year-end, “not a single killing had been properly investigated, and few autopsies had been conducted by either side to determine how individuals had been killed”. (AFP)

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Prime Minister Sharon had told Secretary of State Powell over the telephone that Israel could not continue its policy of restraint indefinitely, in the face of continuing Palestinian attacks. The Prime Minister had asked that the US put pressure on Chairman Arafat to stop the violence, Israeli sources said. (AFP, Reuters)

Following a meeting with President Mubarak in Cairo, US Middle East envoy William Burns said there was a danger the effort at implementing the Fact-Finding Committee’s recommendations would be overwhelmed by events on the ground. It was “absolutely essential” that both parties did everything they could “to calm the situation, to de-escalate, to reduce violence, and to avoid unilateral acts, including settlements, which only provoke the other”, he added. “What we have done so far and what we are going to continue to do is to work with the parties to try and begin to develop a plan of action, a timeline for taking the recommendations of the Mitchell report and translating them into something that can be implemented”, Ambassador Burns explained. (AFP, Reuters)

Speaking after talks with Chairman Arafat, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt strongly supported the Fact-Finding Committee’s report and said if all of its recommendations could be implemented on the ground “certainly observers would be a good thing to verify all that, because today there is a lack of objectivity in the debate”. Asked what policy Belgium would adopt on the Middle East, when it would take over the European Union presidency in July, Mr. Verhofstadt said it would encourage the Union's current diplomatic efforts spearheaded by High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana. (Reuters)

European Parliament President Nicole Fontaine said after meeting Chairman Arafat that the Parliament was “favourable to the idea of sending international observers” to the Middle East. Ms. Fontaine “reaffirmed the European Union’s position on the Middle East, which is the respect for UN resolutions” and said the European Parliament supported the Fact-Finding Committee’s report and the Jordanian- Egyptian initiative. (AFP)

The European Commission was to sign an agreement providing 60 million euros (about US$53 million) in aid to the Palestinian Authority, which would be paid in six monthly installments, a spokesman said. “The funding agreement will be signed with a view to providing direct budget support, which will not, as in cases in the recent past, be a loan, but a subsidy”, said the Commission spokesman. He added the agreement would be signed by EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten and PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath, prior to a meeting between Chairman Arafat and Commission President Romano Prodi. (AFP)

Speaking after a meeting with President Mubarak in Cairo, Russian presidential envoy Yevgeny Primakov said there was a need for enlargement of contributions to the peace efforts, “because the monopolization by one State has brought the situation to the corner and we should take it from this corner”. He stressed that Russia was ready to participate actively and said that the Russian plan at this point was to support the Jordanian-Egyptian initiative and the Fact-Finding Committee’s report. Mr. Primakov noted, however, that future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations ought to be based on previous agreements, including the Sharm el-Sheikh understanding. (AFP, DPA)

PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Faisal Husseini, 60, died of a heart attack during an official visit to Kuwait. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)

A 17-year-old Palestinian was killed and another of the same age was seriously injured by Israeli fire at the village of Hizmeh, north of Jerusalem, at a time when there were no on-going clashes, Palestinians sources said. An Israeli from the “Mevo Dotan” settlement was shot dead in his car north of Tulkarm, the IDF said. In another shooting incident, Jewish settlers wounded a Palestinian and an Israeli Arab who were travelling by car in the West Bank, witnesses and Palestinian police said. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)


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